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6 best new fake tan products to make it look like you've been on vacay (even if you haven't)

Everything you need to know about sunless tanning... 

best new self tan products to try
Leanne Bayley
Director of Lifestyle & Commerce
8 March 2024
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I'm writing this feature with the sun shining through my office window, and it's making me so excited for spring. But I do have one issue: My body is not ready for spring. It looks pasty, it looks dry and it looks like it's been in hibernation all winter long (which is kind of true!). 

My relationship with fake tan has been a consistent one. From sunbeds in my university days (shudder), to weekly spray tans in my going out-out era, to nowadays when I tend to apply fake tan at the sound of midnight right before a special occasion. 

But what are the best fake tan brands to choose from? There are so many on the market nowadays, and it really depends what you're looking for, but do you know the differences between all the different types? 

Experts in this article

  • Jules Von Hep, founder of Isle of Paradise, a renowned tanning brand. Jules has over 90,000 followers on Instagram and is a passionate advocate for body confidence. 
  • Alexandra DiMarchi from Airbrush By Alexandra, a celebrity airbrush artist and global tanning expert for Tan-Luxe. Alexandra has 10,000 followers on Instagram and shares photos of her celebrity clients, including Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera.  

In this article you'll learn

  • A quick glance at the top choices - chosen by the editor of this article
  • What is fake tan? 
  • Which fake tan to choose - discover the difference between them all 
  • How we chose the best fake tans for this article
  • Shop 6 best fake tan products on the market right now 
  • The benefits of fake tan 
  • How to choose the best shade of self tan
  • Fake tan prep - the fake tan essentials
  • How to remedy a fake tan fail - expert tips from Jules Von Hep
  • How to apply fake tan if you're a beginner - expert tips from Airbrush by Alexandra

What is fake tan? 

Fake tan is also known as self-tanner or sunless tanner. Invented in the early 20th century, and patented in the 50s, it's now a product used by men and women to give the  skin a golden glow without the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It typically contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with amino acids in the skin's surface to produce a brown coloration. Noways there are countless products to choose from, and they come in various forms such as lotions, sprays, gels, and mousses.

Alexandra diMarchi gave Paris Hilton the ultimate glow as she attended the 2024 GRAMMY Awards© Getty Images
Alexandra diMarchi gave Paris Hilton the ultimate glow as she attended the 2024 GRAMMY Awards

Which fake tan to choose?

Self-tanning lotions: Lotions or creams that contain DHA. They are applied like regular body lotion and gradually develop colour over a few hours. Popular brands include Isle of Paradise and St Tropez. 

Self-tanning mousses: Similar to lotions, mousses contain DHA but have a lighter, foamy texture. They are applied by pumping the mousse onto a tanning mit and then blending it in for an even application. 

Self-tanning sprays: Sprays are aerosol products that contain DHA and are sprayed directly onto the skin. They can be applied using an applicator mitt or sprayed directly and then blended in with the hands or a mitt. 

Self-tanning wipes: These are pre-soaked wipes infused with DHA that are wiped over the skin to apply the tan. Great for travel or festivals but may not provide as even of an application as other methods.

Gradual tanners: These products contain a lower concentration of DHA and are designed for daily use to build up a gradual tan over time. They often resemble regular body lotion and provide a more subtle tan. Look at the ingredients and go for moisturising formulas that nourish and condition your skin.

Instant tanning creams: These products contain cosmetic bronzers rather than DHA and provide immediate colour upon application. They can be washed off with water and soap and are often used for an event.

Other options include tanning oils, clear water, tanning gels, tanning serums and tanning drops

How we chose the best fake tan products 

  • Popular self-tan brands: There are market leading brands, and a lot of them you will find in this list. There will also be rising stars and TikTok must-haves. 
  • Positive reviews: Whether we've tried the tanning product ourselves, or whether we've looked at Instagram comments or verified reviews, we want to only promote products we believe will work. 
  • Products with lots of information available: When choosing a fake tan product, consider factors such as your skin type, desired result, and application preference to find the best option for you.

The best fake tans to shop now 

  1. 1/6

    Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Oil Mist

    Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Oil Mist

    Isle Of Paradise

    Key Details:

    Size: 200ml

    Type: Oil Mist

    Shade Options: Light, Medium, Dark

    How To Use:

    The website advises that you exfoliate and moisturise dry areas before application. Shake well and mist until skin is totally saturated. Leave hands and feet until last and then blend with a tanning mit or use your hand in sweeping motions (thoroughly wash palms after if you do!). Reapply as you start to fade to help glowing for longer.

    Why We Love It: It's formulated with colour-correcting technology, and goes on like a dream. It gives you smoother, brighter, and a more even skin tone. Your tan will last up to 7 days, and application is speedy. 

    Isle of Paradise's Oil Mist is supercharged with three hydrating heroes - hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane plus a vitamin rich sea kelp base. When shaken, these powerful actives combine with 7 nourishing oils including argan, grape seed and avocado, clinically proven to lock in moisture for up to 24hrs.

  2. 2/6

    Tan-Luxe The Bronze Instant Bronzer

    Tan Luxe Instant Tan


    Key Details:

    Size: 150ml

    Type: Instant

    Shade Options: No

    How To Apply:

    The website states that you must shake well. You then mist liberally, directly to the face and body, blending in sweeping motions with a tanning mitt or kabuki brush. The more you layer, the deeper your result will be. Allow it to dry fully before dressing. Thoroughly wash your hands after use.

    Why We Love It: Sometimes you just want a quick and easy tan to apply, and this is golden - quite literally. The Bronze is an illuminating intant bronzer that can be used on the face and the body and offers up to 24 hours of glow time.  

    Transfer-proof, the wash-off fake tan features a blend of Japanese camelia, citrus unishu and azelaic acid to visibly brighten, tone and balance the skin, resulting in a flawless-looking glow. Equipped with a misting nozzle for a fuss-free application, spray as desired to build up to your desired deepness.

  3. 3/6

    Bondi Sands Technocolor One Hour Self Tanning Foam

    Bondi Sands Technocolor One Hour Self Tanning Foam

    Bondi Sands

    Key Details:

    Size: 200ml 

    Type: Foam 

    Shade Options: Yes (and there's a quiz to find out what colour to choose) 

    How To Use:

    The website states there's a three step process. Step 1 make sure your skin is clean, exfoliated and free of any moisturisers. Step 2, pump Bondi Sands Technocolor Self Tanning Foam liberally to a Bondi Sands Technocolor Application Mitt and apply to body using long, sweeping motions. The third and final step, after one hour, shower with warm water and gently pat skin dry. For best results, leave on skin for a minimum of 3 hours.

    Why We Love It: Bondi Sands’ newest tanning innovation is just what you need before the warmer (fingers crossed) months ahead. Whether you’re new to the world of self-tan or are an avid tanner, this tan hero is fool-proof, natural looking and fast drying – getting your glow on has never been so easy. 

    The Technocolor range is the result of extensive studies, showcasing four products that are formulated with DermachromaticTM Colour Technology; boasting the perfect blend of tanning active ingredients, electrolyte hydration and colour enhancers to adapt to specific skin tones and types to result in the perfect tan. 

  4. 4/6

    St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Body Serum

    St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Body Serum

    St Tropez

    Key Details:

    Size: 200ml

    Type: Serum

    Shade Options: No

    How To Apply:

    The website states that you exfoliate and moisturise dry areas in advance. Glide on with a mitt, using the light golden sheen to guide the application to ensure no missed patches. Wear for 8 hours as your natural-looking tan subtly develops. No need to rinse. For a deeper tan re-apply after 24 hours.

    Why We Love It: St Tropez is a trusted brand within the self tan industry, and it's clear to see why. Within the luxe range you'll find this luxurious serum which is enriched with science-backed skincare ingredients. 

    Think niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, as well as the brand's new collagen-enhancing complex.

  5. 5/6

    Bare By Vogue

    Bare by Vogue Self Tan Firming Lotion

    Bare By Vogue

    Key Details:

    Size: 200ml

    Type: Lotion

    Shade Options: Medium, Dark, Ultra Dark

    How To Apply:

    The website advises that you apply the lotion using a mitt in circular motions. Top tip: Use the residue on the mitt for drier areas such as hands, elbows and feet.

    Why We Love It: This product is such a dream to apply and doesn't leave you feeling sticky or smelly (you know how it is with fake tan and the smell!). You get a colour really speedily, and is longlasting. It's enriched with super peptides which help to smooth, plump, firm and improve elasticity, all whilst creating a flawless ready to wear colour. 

    The formula contains goji berry, oatmeal, chamomile, pomegranate and grapefruit which help to promote natural skin health and the ultimate glow!

  6. 6/6

    Skinny Tan Iconic Body Glow Gradual Tanner


    Skinny Tan

    Key Details:

    Size: 280ml

    Type: Gradual

    Shade Options: Medium

    How To Use:

    The website states that you're to exfoliate and prep skin 24hrs before application, and make sure that your skin is completely dry before applying. Apply evenly in circular motions, and wash palms with warm, soapy water directly after application. Their top tip? Allow tan to develop for 6-8 hours before showering. 

    Why We Love It: Perfect for applying daily, layering over an existing tan or using instead of your usual body moisturiser. With a colour-free guide, you can apply and go – with a lasting gradual tan developed in 6-8 hours.

    With a new formula enriched with aloe vera and guarana, this gradual tanner combines skincare benefits with a daily buildable dose of glow.

The benefits of fake tan 

This is an easy one. This is all about safe tanning. Sunless tanning equals a safe alternative to sun exposure. You get all the benefits of looking tanned without the negatives of harmful UV radiation, and resuces to the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. 

How to choose the right fake tan shade for you?

For a natural-looking winter tan, choose a shade that is right for your skin tone. You may be able to get away with a darker colour in the summer, but in the colder months, it can make fake tan look a little, well, fake. Less is more at this time of year and stick to one layer rather than two.

Tanning Essentials

How to fix fake tan fails - tips from Jules Von Hep

Self-tanning mishaps can happen to the best of us. In fact, 13 million people have viewed #faketanfails on TikTok, so you’re definitely not alone. From patchy application to those dreaded darkened elbows and tell-tale tan lines, we've all been there. But fear not, because there's a way to salvage your faux glow and achieve that flawless tan you were aiming for – whether embracing tanning drops or dropping your tan correctly.  

Jules Von Hep, founder of Isle of Paradise, a renowned tanning brand, revealed expert advice on how to effectively correct common self-tanning fails. 

Jules Von Hep© Jules Von Hep
Jules Von Hep: "Self-tan to me is more than just a beauty product, it's confidence in a bottle and not having a tan really impacts my confidence”

Patchy tan 

One of the most frustrating fake tan mishaps is patchiness. It can occur when the tan doesn't apply evenly or when certain areas of the skin absorb more product than others. To fix this issue, Jules Von Hep recommends: 

"If you find yourself with a patchy tan, don't panic," says Jules. "The key here is gentle exfoliation. Use a scrub or exfoliating mitt to buff away the patchy areas, focusing on the uneven spots. Then, apply a gradual tanning lotion or mousse to even out your complexion.” 

Darkened elbows and knees 

Those pesky areas like elbows and knees tend to soak up more self-tanner, leading to overly dark spots that can look unnatural. Jules advises: 

"To tackle darkened elbows and knees, start by exfoliating these areas thoroughly. Then, mix a small amount of your self-tanner with a moisturiser before applying. This will dilute the tanner's intensity and give you a more natural look. Remember to blend well and use sparingly." 

Tan lines 

Tan lines can be a dead giveaway that your golden glow is not the real deal. Jules recommends a strategic approach: 

"For tan lines, you'll need to gradually blend the lines by applying a self-tanner one shade lighter than your current tan. This will help soften the contrast between your tan lines and untanned skin. Make sure to blend thoroughly and feather the edges for a seamless transition." 

Total tan removal 

Sometimes, you might decide it's time for a clean slate and wish to completely remove your tan. Jules Von Hep has a solution for this too: 

"If you want total complete tan removal," Jules emphasises, "I recommend using a glycolic tan remover. Spray onto the skin, massage in, so a lather is formed and leave for 5 minutes. I love spraying a sheet mask with this, too. Keep returning to the skin and re-massaging every minute, paying special attention to those areas that are slightly dryer - elbows, knees, in between the thighs, and armpits. For stubborn tan, try adding a cleansing balm on top of the glycolic tan remover and work it off the skin using a face cloth." 

Self-tanning can be a game-changer when it comes to achieving that sun-kissed glow without the harmful effects of UV rays. However, for those who are new to the world of self-tanning, it can be a bit overwhelming. 

A beginner's guide to fake tan - expert tips from Airbrush by Alexandra

Renowned celebrity spray tanner and tanning expert Alexandra from Airbrush By Alexandra has some useful tips and tricks for when it comes to self-tanning for the first time – from gradual tanning drops to exfoliating right. 

Shay Mitchell attends the amfAR Cannes Gala - glow provided by @airbrushbyalexandra© Getty Images
Shay Mitchell attends the amfAR Cannes Gala - glow provided by @airbrushbyalexandra

Preparing your skin

Before diving into the world of self-tanning, it's crucial to prepare your skin properly. Alexandra recommends the following steps:

Shower, shave, and exfoliate: "Shower to remove any topical product from your skin that could cause a barrier during your tanning application, and shave and exfoliate for a smooth application. This is the key to maintaining a tan!"

Avoid harsh exfoliating and brightening products: While exfoliation is essential before tanning, avoid using harsh exfoliants and brightening products immediately before tanning, as they may strip your tan.

Use a gentle body wash: Opt for a gentle body wash to ensure your tan lasts longer and fades evenly.

Choosing the Right Products

Selecting the right self-tanning products is crucial for a successful tanning experience. Alexandra's advice for beginners is to start with gradual self-tanning lotions:

Start with gradual self-tanning lotion: "For someone who is trying a self-tanner for the first time, less is more. I consistently suggest that beginners start their tanning journey with a gradual self-tanning lotion due to its ease of application, allowing them to achieve their desired tan progressively. Once they learn what formulations and techniques work best for them, then they can play around with darker shades."

Match the shade to your skin tone: "When selecting your self-tanner, pick a shade that matches your natural skin tone. It's essential to choose a self-tanner that aligns with your natural shade. If you have fair to light or medium skin, opt for light/medium and wear it for the longest amount of time possible. If you naturally have a darker complexion with more melanin, you can experiment with medium/dark and leave it on for a longer duration to achieve the desired tan depth."

By following these recommendations, you can achieve a more natural-looking tan that complements your skin tone.

How to apply fake tan

The application process can make or break your self-tanning experience. Here are some tips for a flawless application:

Use a mitt or gloves: "Protect your hands from staining by using a tanning mitt or disposable gloves."

Apply in sections: "Divide your body into sections to ensure even coverage. Start with one section at a time, like your arms or legs, and blend the product in thoroughly before moving on."

Blend well: "Pay extra attention to blending at the joints, like your knees, elbows, and ankles, as these areas tend to absorb more product."

Don't forget your face: "If you're tanning your face, use a facial self-tanner specifically designed for this purpose and apply sparingly."

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